I would like to learn to ask permission. With my teenage son Jordy, it would be at those times when I want to lecture or make a point, or teach a lesson, and I would actually do well to ask his permission first. As when he streaks around the house looking for his new Van’s beanie that gives him such a great hipster vibe, or a guitar pick that he’ll need at rehearsal in an hour, or his wallet, glasses or phone – the three items we’ve impressed on our son he may not leave home without. If I could just find a way to stop and say “May I make a suggestion?” And of course he knows what I’m going to say: “Put it in the same place every time, and you’ll always know where to find it.” But the permission to say it could make the difference in him actually hearing it. Maybe.
With my wife, Maggie, who is so good at asking permission, I need to follow her example. “Can I give you some feedback” is all I’d need to say, before foisting my clumsy opinions on her about an outfit she’s wearing, or a new haircut, or a meal she’s prepared. Asking permission to offer her feedback would go a long way to preventing fights and hurt feelings. Feedback is a gift – a gentle, helpful, direct, specific statement of behaviors and observations, feelings and needs. When offered with love and kindness, and permission, it’ll always be well received and appreciated. Especially by Maggie, who is herself so generous with this gift.
With my father, who’s life I took over some four plus years ago, I could easily show him greater care and respect by simply asking his permission before going about the many regular tasks I undertake on his behalf. “Dad,” I might say, “I’d like to update the white board in your room to show what’s happening this week…would that be ok with you?” Or, “Hey Dad, how about if we make a meeting with your bookkeeper, to make sure all of your accounts are paid and up-to-date?” Yes, it’s true that I am gonna do those things anyway, whether he likes it or not, with or without his permission, because they need to be done, and it’s my job to see that his affairs are kept in order. But even if my dad has very little say, very little power these days, I can still ask his permission, and so preserve a little bit of dignity, which goes along way, I know.
So, I’d like to learn to ask permission. With my son as a new teen, it would model the kind of manners I want to see him practice, and might even influence how he navigates friendships and intimate relations one day.
With my wife, asking permission to say and act will really honor and meet her where she’s already at, doing for her what she most often already does for me.
And with my dad, the respect he deserves would be demonstrated if I asked permission more often, and gave him a sense that he has some say.
I would like to learn to ask permission. I need to give myself that permission, for the sake of those I love, and for my own sake.
…and that’s the full-circle fatherhood report for this week.
BONUS SONG: "Say Yes" by Langhorne Slim ~ CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO Say Yes